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tv   The Beat With Ari Melber  MSNBC  April 14, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. we were in love. >> they were so happy at first. but romance turned to danger. she fell from the edge. >> i would call this an accidental death. >> but was it? >> she said that if anything happens to me, you'll know who did it. >> a mystery of nearly 20 years heads into court and the husband is on the precipice. >> did you kill your wife jody? >> i did not kill jody. >> what happened on the cliff's edge.
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hello and welcome to "dateline" extra. when police got word that someone had fallen off a cliff, they weren't surprised. the place was known to be dangerous but even they couldn't guess that it would take almost 20 years to find out what really happened to a woman out on an evening hike with her husband. here's chris jansing. >> every couple has it, a shared song, a favorite movie or maybe a special place. steven sharp says for him and his wife jody, this was it. two rocks forming a lover's chair on the edge of a cliff. >> that was our spot. we would bring a hibachi, a couple of lawn chair, a cooler. and she'd bring her work from graduate school. >> reporter: they'd been escaping to this magical place for years, ever since they were
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newlyweds in a starter apartment in new jersey. up here the air was fresh and the views seemed limits. >> it sort of framed by trees but you could look down to the right and see the view of the george washington bridge. >> reporter: what they couldn't see from here, of course, was the future. had they caught even a glimpse of what was to come, surely they would have abandoned this place forever. steven and jody met in the late '70s in georgia. he was in the army, a bookworm who loved the civil war. she taught history. theirs was a meeting first of minds, then hearts. how would you sort of describe those early years? were they loveing? were they exciteing? >> yes, they were -- you another, we were in love. we were ecstatic. >> reporter: from there, marriage, a house, a son
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jonathan in 1983. and how would you describe jody as a mom? >> she was really devoted. >> reporter: life was good and even as the years went by, even with the demands of work and family, steven says he and jody still made time for each other. like that last summer sunday in september of 1992. steven says it was supposed to be a date night. >> it wasn't no idea that would be the most critical day in our life in our marriage. >> what was the day like? any other day? >> yes. >> reporter: here was the plan, husband and wife would drive into manhattan and go to a comedy club, a light-hearted night on the town. but they made a detour here to the palisades to their spot. steven remembers pulling up to the scenic lookout sitting in the car with jody sharing a wine cooler. >> there were other people there sitting this their cars and walked up, looked over the spot
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where the binoculars were and walked up to this sort of open view. >> reporter: he says they then turned and took a well worn path to the rocks and sat there as the night fell around them. he with his back against the rock holding her as she sat directly in front of him. at some point something goes terribly wrong. >> yes. >> reporter: he says he stood up intending to go back to the car to get wine and a blanket. for whatever reason jody stood up too. the edge. the rock was at her feet. what was your last glimpse of your wife? just standing up and, you know, and stumbling forward. >> reporter: jody had gone off the cliff. >> i didn't know how bad things were but i was stunned. >> what did you do? >> i got down on my stomach. i stuck my head over the -- and i just yelled, jody, jodi yi,
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talk to me. i just yelled down there. >> reporter: but no response. he grabbed a flashlight and flagged down a motorist who came here to the palisades interstate parkway police station. lieutenant walter serrie was on duty. >> until he came through the door it was a very quiet night. >> reporter: the frantic man was telling them a woman had fallen from the lookout above and that her husband was waiting for help. the police called in michael cioffi, an experienced climber. >> i was there as a rescue mission. i thought she was alive. >> reporter: he began to lower himself off the side of the cliff where the woman's husband said she had fallen. about ten feet down. he caught sight of a ledge. >> the minute i got to the ledge i observed the purse. i think it was two credit cards. >> on a ledge ten feet down. >> right. >> reporter: but it was what he didn't see that confused him. there was no sign that the woman's body had also hit that
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ledge or any part of the cliffs. nothing. no blood, no hair, no clothing, no fibers, no skin. >> reporter: by that point officer walter serrie had arrived up at the lookout. since there was nothing the husband could do to help in the rescue, serrie was told to get him out of the way and drove him back down to police headquarters. on the way, steven recounted the awful moment when his wife disappeared. >> we were walking and she said for me to go back to the car and get the blanket and she slipped and i didn't see her anymore. >> reporter: as they arrived at the station rescue cioffi made it to the base more than 100 feet below the top. he expected to find a wounded woman there, but he didn't. >> i'm saying she's not here. i'm -- at the first point i thought maybe this is a hoax. maybe she never really went off the cliff. >> reporter: he and another rescuer began to walk along the
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base pointing flashlights north. finally about 30 feet away the beams landed on something white. it was jody lying motionless next to a tree. >> there was a lot of blood on that tree and the blood was actually draining down the tree. that's where severe impact took. that's where she really, you know -- >> jody sharp had not survived the fall. to cioffi it was clear she had slammed into that tree. as they began to move the body, he noticed something else. >> she had an odor of an alcoholic beverage that emanated from her body. >> when you smelled that did you think well maybe she had had too much to drink and fell? >> that entered my mind, yes. >> reporter: at that moment, steven sharp was sitting in a room at the police station waiting for someone to tell him what had happened to his wife. do you remember what's going through your mind at that point? >> how badly is she hurt? where is she? why isn't she calling back to me? >> reporter: that's when an
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officer walked into the room and broke the news to steven. jody was gone. >> i don't even remember who came in and told me. >> and what was your reaction? >> denial, it was, you know, how could this -- how could this happen? >> reporter: that question would haunt him and many others and it would take years for the answers to finally come. coming up -- >> there was love in his eyes to make look like he was crying. >> you thought he was faking tears. >> absolutely. >> curious behavior puts a husband under the microscope. when "over the edge" continues. this car is literally my baby. which is why i use armor all ultra shine wash wipes. they effectively remove dirt, dust and grime with no water. that car is in tip top shape! we are both in tip top shape! armor all, it's easy to look good.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." it started out as a romantic date for a new jersey couple but ended in tragedy. jody and steven sharp hiked to a favorite spot along the
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palisades cliff to take in the view. but a short while later, jody fell over the edge and questions about what really happened that night began to mount. here's chris jansing. >> reporter: it was the worst night of his life and now steven sharp in the early morning hours of september 21st, 1992, had to tell his 10-year-old son jonathan his mother was dead. >> i said, come on, jonathan. we need to take a walk and i told him and he immediately burst into tears and i cried. i cried like a baby and i wasn't ashamed. >> reporter: he remembers his distraught son's reaction but little else from those dark hours. were you sleeping? were you eating? >> drinking. >> you were drinking? >> i lost my wife, my son lost hi mom. >> reporter: there was plenty of sympathy among family and friends to be sure for the man newly widowed with a small child to raise on his own.
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his wife had died in a freak accident, off a cliff of all places, how could that happen? and that's exactly what police who were there the night of jody's death wanted to know too. >> right away i got a feeling that there was something definitely wrong. >> reporter: it nagged at res e rescurescu rescuer michael cioffi. why was her purse on a ledge? >> where is she? she should be ear or the pocketbook should be down with her and it wasn't fitting. >> reporter: another thought dawned on him. if jody had tumbled, why hasn't she hit the side of the cliffs? there was no blood or hair anywhere on the rocks. and the location of jody's body seemed off to cioffi. way off. >> she was like 30 to 40 feet away from us to the north. a person falls offer the cliff
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usually they're going to go south or they're going to go right down. should have been right down where i got off the ropes. >> reporter: someone else was scratching his head about that night for different reasons. it had to do with steven's behavior while the search was under way. officer walter serrie was surprised steven was willing to leave the lookout as rescuers were still looking for jody. did he give any indication, i don't want to leave, my wife could still be alive down there? >> no, not at all. >> reporter: serrie says he couldn't believe how willingly steven sharp got into his patrol car. >> if i tell you if it was my wife, girlfriend, they would have to pry me away. >> he willingly got into your patrol car. >> without a word state. >> reporter: stranger still how calm the husband seemed. when the officer heard steven describe how his wife had fallen, he made a mental note. >> there was no emotion in it. i mean no emotion at all like he was reading a script. >> did it occur to you, well,
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maybe he's in shock? >> no, i've seen people who lost loved ones and i've never seen anybody act that way. >> reporter: but it was a particular moment later inside the station house that really caught the officer's attention. >> and he asked if he could get a direct from the water fountain, he was looking like over his shoulder and splashing his face and made it look like he was crying? >> you thought he was faking tears. >> absolutely, absolutely. >> a death scene where the pieces didn't connect. a husband who appeared nonchalant. from a cop's point of view, things were adding up and not in steven's favor. >> not just one thing, it was like the totality of the circumstances. everything -- every little thing was clicking in my mind, i'm saying to myself, this isn't right. something is wrong here. >> reporter: gut instinct is one thing but evidence is quite
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another. people handle terrible events in different ways. the police are paid to be suspicious. maybe their view of steven was too jaundiced. there really was nothing to indicate that jody's fall was anything but an accident. a few months later the ruling was in. the bergen county medical examiner concluded the manner of jody sharp's death could not be determined. an accident was as likely as anything else. case closed. or was it? coming up -- >> so you didn't think this was a horrible accident? >> no. >> the suspicions grow. was there a weapon at this romantic rendezvous. >> you had your wine, cheese, crackers, claw hammer. red flags going up reached the top of the pole. >> when "over the edge" continues. aah! ...i would have said you were crazy.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." police began to question steven sharp's behavior after his wife fell from the edge of a cliff. to them he just didn't seem like a grieving husband, but did their suspicions amount to anything more than a hunch? here again is chris jansing. >> jody's death on these cliffs had been a horrible accident. her husband said so. and the medical examiner wasn't arguing with him. but detectives have a kind of sixth sense about cases. it was telling james lynam something sinter happened. so you didn't think this was a
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horrible accident. >> no. >> reporter: there wasn't any smoking gun really. just something dark lynam thought he could read between the lines in the police notes he reviewed the day after jody's death. >> he did not react like somebody who just lost his wife should have reacted. >> reporter: and so the detective moved his investigation from the physical evidence to the less tangible clues. he quickly learned from jody's friends that this was a couple not in love but in crisis. the subject wasn't wine and roses on those cliffs, it was divorce. >> she was going to go through wit, yes, absolutely. >> jody's longtime friend told detectives that jody had been determined to take her 10-year-old son jonathan and leave her husband. she was convinced steven had been cheating on her. >> she couldn't prove anything but women called the house and sometimes they'd call and hang
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up on her. >> reporter: in fact, lynam learned jody had served her husband divorce papers on september 8th, 1992. less than two weeks later, she was dead at the base of the palisades. the timing made them even more eager to talk to the widower scharf. >> there was a sit-down with mr. scharf. he's consented to talk. >> yes. >> reporter: two days after his wife's death steven scharf was answering detective's question, yes, he told them he and his wife were talking divorce as they had sometimes done during their tempestuous marriage and it was true there were other women. >> he said they had an open marriage and was with 50 or 60 women. >> she was okay with that. >> yes. >> he said they had become unhappy with their free love lifestyle and came to this
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romantic if treacherous spot to recommit to each other, steven said, to kiss and make up. >> and the spot where they went is not a spot where you would go to reconcile with anybody. >> detectives weren't buying the story for another reason, they had found something suspicious inside scharf's car, a bag filled with items you'd expect for a romantic picnic and one you would not, a hammer. >> you have your wine, cheese, crackers, opener, claw hammer. i mean, red flags are goldstone up. they reached the top of the pole at that point. >> did you think it was a murder weapon. >> yeah, i thought that might have been plan a and he didn't use it so he went to plan b. >> reporter: which lynam beli e believed was to push or throw jody off that cliff so detectives asked steven scharf the obvious, what was a hammer doing in that picnic bag? >> well, he told us he fixed a drawer in his kitchen with the hammer and he just forgot to put
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it back in the garage. he put it in the bag with the pickny items. it was just convenient. it was a convenient excuse for having that hammer. >> reporter: detectives ask fundamental they could check out the drawer and the rest of steven's house that night. he agreed. but as it turned out, something potentially far more telling was happening away from the action. >> and i said, look, mr. scharf, i'm your local police department. >> reporter: ted aronberg was told to keep an eye on steven scharf that night as detectives combed through his house. the officer says he began talking to steven about what had happened to jody when steven interrupted him. >> he finally looks at me and he goes, you don't believe me. >> reporter: and then the officer says scharf said something that almost knocked him off his feet. >> i said, i believe an accident occurred and i said was it an accident and he put his head down and he said no. >> reporter: aronberg believed that was a stunning confession.
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he ran to tell the other detectives including lynam but they had just spent hours grilling the man. >> we weren't getting that feeling that a reinterview at that point would have done anything. >> reporter: the detectives still believed they could find solid evidence to implicate steven scharf but they didn't. >> we took it as far as we could do. the cause of death was listed as undetermined. so officially it wasn't a homicide. >> reporter: in time, the detectives moved on to other cases, steven scharf moved on too. 14 years after his wife's death he remarried. tina scharf says he's been a loving ideal husband. >> it was like we were two puzzle pieces that were made for each other where we just -- each of us complemented and completed the other person. >> reporter: but even in this happy new life he says, he's never forgotten about jody. but he might have been surprised to learn that someone else was thinking of her too after all these years, bergen county hadny
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new prosecutor and he was eagle story revisit old case files. among them, an unexplained death here on the cliffs of the palisades so many years ago. the death of jody scharf. >> there was this renewed push since 2002 to look into the coal cases. >> reporter: kibrette marcus covered them. he said it didn't seem the prosecutor had any reason to pursue the cold case. >> in terms of hardest, it had absolutely nothing new. >> reporter: but the prosecutor did have someone new. a famous name to join the investigation into jody scharf's death, dr. michael baden, a world renowned forensic pa pathologist who investigated the deaths of john f. kennedy and john belushi and testified at the trial of o.j. simpson. he was about to turn the heat on a very cold case. >> dr. michael baden has
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reviewed the evidence and has determined that this could not have been an accidental fall. >> reporter: in december of 2008, detectives paid one more visit to steven scharf. >> they wouldn't tell me what it was for. i had no idea what this was about. i mean it didn't make sense. >> reporter: 16 years after that fatal night on the cliff, police were back. and steven scharf was in for a shock. after all these years you thought it was done. >> not until they reached behind and handed me this thing, this arrest warrant. >> coming up, the case heads into court with a surprise from the stand. >> hear from my mother. >> steven and jody scharf's only son has dark secrets to share. >> did you see that abuse? >> i did. >> when "over the edge" continues. in an unreasonably narrow fast food drive thru lane.
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president trump spoke with the leaders of france and united kingdom to discuss their joint missile attack. it was in response to a suspected chemical attack by the syrian government on its own people and the security council rejected a russian resolution calling for the condemnation of what it called the aggression by the united states and its allies against syria. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline extra." years after jody scharf fell to her death a famous forensic pathologist was brought in. what could he uncover? >> what's stuck in his mind -- >> reporter: time is an invisible but crucial player for both sides. sometimes it hurts a case.
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memories fade. evidence is lost. witnesses die. but time can also put evidence in a new light. such was the case in the trial of stephen scharf accused of killing his wife nearly two decades ago. >> there is no statute of limitations on murder. >> reporter: the prosecutor promised the evidence would tell a story as simple as it was brutal. a husband determined to avoid a costly divorce lured his wife to the edge of a cliff and forced her off it. >> if he has lied he is guilty. >> reporter: the state marshaled familiar facts to tell its story starting with the crime scene where the prosecutor said the cliffs showed no sign of an accidental tumble. >> no debris, no clothing, no blood, no hair, no tissue. >> reporter: and then there was the husband himself, cool and collected in the back of a
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police car. >> i didn't see any emotion from him at all, sir. >> reporter: who later confessed the prosecutor said to killing his wife. >> and then i said, it was an accident? and he said, no. >> reporter: but those facts were not where the case ended. the prosecutor argued that they simply set the stage for the real case. a story told by the victim's friends, family and most importantly by a star witness. >> my opinion is that the manner of death is homicide. >> reporter: dr. michael baden, the famous forensic pathologist told jurors the crime scene spoke of a murder, not an accident. >> if a person falls accide accidentally, the individual will be, you know, within a couple of feet of the base of the building. >> reporter: and that didn't happen in the case of jody scharf. her body landed 50 feet out from the top of the cliff and 30 feet
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to the north. >> she had to have been prop propelled from that point. >> reporter: jody had to have been thrown or pushed to her death, he said and likely from another spot entirely on those cliffs. he wasn't the only expert who saw it that way. >> of the head and chest injuries are not consistent with someone that tumbles down the cliff face. >> reporter: dr. marian clayton was the bergen county medical examiner who first ruled the circumstances of jody's death could not be determined. now on second look, she said, the victim's wounds or lack of them told her something different, something vital. if jody had tumbled innocently down the palisades she would have had broken bones everywhere. she did not. >> there were no visible injuries on the back of mrs. scharf's body. >> reporter: but why would stephen have killed his wife? the biggest reason the
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prosecutor argued was that stephen did not want a divorce. he didn't want a custody fight and he didn't want to split assets with jody. and there was yet another motive for stephen, said the prosecutor. a potential payout. >> usaa life insurance company. >> reporter: an insurance representative testified about a $500,000 policy taken out against jody scharf months before her death. payable to a primary beneficially. >> can you tell us the policy owner. >> stephen f. scharf. >> reporter: jody scharf was simply worth more dead than alive. her friend testified that jody feared stephen might do something violent if she pushed for that divorce. even so, marian said, jody was determined to get away from her husband. >> she was going to have divorce papers served on stephen and she
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was very afraid of it. >> reporter: yet was stephen violent enough to kill his wife? an unlikely but powerful witness was about to testify against stephen scharf. >> i'm here for my mother. >> reporter: his own son took the stand against him, now a businessman, jonathan scharf painted his father as an angry, violent man who terrorized his mother. >> did you see that abuse? >> i did. >> reporter: jonathan scharf said he realized his father had likely killed his mother only after that arrest in 2008. this videotaped interview shows him recalling the dark past for the first time to police. >> she got coffee thrown at her by him. >> reporter: now in court, he had even more to tell about his childhood. like the afternoon he sat cowering in the backseat of a car watching his mother suffer. >> my mom was driving and my dad
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just hitting her with the bottom of his fists and i was like begging him to stop doing it. >> he also remembered the last day of his mother's life. he was 10 and said his mother told his father that she didn't want to go out with him alone. >> she said, if i wanted to go out with you i wouldn't be divorcing you. >> reporter: but where was the proof that stephen had planned to kill jody that night? well, there was the hammer in the picnic bag. but there was also testimony from this woman, one of stephen's old girlfriends. >> i even mentioned to my girlfriend that it was perfect relationship. >> reporter: terry had been dating stephen months before jody scharf's death. >> did mr. scharf tell you whether or not he was married? >> actually he said he was not married. >> reporter: and she remembered something strange stephen said to her on the beach over the that labor day weekend.
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>> he was under a lot of stress and the stress would be resolved by the end of september. >> reporter: two weeks later jody scharf was dead. terry now sees that cryptic statement in a dreadful light. >> i was like, oh, no, the end of september and then the light bulb went off immediately. >> reporter: it also went off for marian in perhaps the most chilling testimony of the prosecution's case, she told the jury when she heard her friend was gone she immediately remember something jody said just weeks earlier. >> she said that during this conversation that i have with him if anything happens to me, you'll know who did it. she said you'll know it was him. >> reporter: the prosecutor's position was clear, a husband with a motive, the perfect setting, the violent intent to kill his wife or was there another way of looking at that couple perched high on those
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cliffs on a summer night? stephen's new wife says the prosecution has it all wrong. >> my husband is not capable, that is not the man he is. my husband is sweet, kind, loving, considerate. >> the prosecutor -- >> reporter: the defense was ready to show how stephen scharf far from villain was the real victim in this story. coming up -- >> they destroyed the crime scene area. >> reporter: new questions about the evidence and was there another reason why a son might implicate his dad? >> who does the money go to? >> it goes to me. >> when "over the edge" continues.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." we continue now with "over the edge." once again chris jansing. >> stephen scharf is not guilty. >> reporter: 18 years after the death of his first wife, more than a decade after the investigation first stalled, stephen scharf was being called a killer. but his defense attorney argued there was no new evidence in this case, no new eyewitnesses. only new opinions. >> talking about the same old facts and circumstances. >> reporter: he said the state was hoping to win a murder conviction by painting his client as a terrible husband, that it couldn't prove he was a killer in 1992 and it couldn't prove it today. >> my client stephen scharf has been wrongfully charged with her death.
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>> reporter: and one reason the prosecutor couldn't prove murder had to do with sloppy police work the defense attorney said suggesting it had been like keystone cops on the palisades that fatal night. >> you never photographed the body before you moved it, did you? >> no, sir. >> why didn't they take photographs? they destroyed the crime scene area. >> reporter: they didn't even bother to question potential eyewitnesses, he said, instead, they cleared visitors from the lookout. >> there might have been someone who saw something or heard something. >> there might have been. there's a possibility that might have happened. >> reporter: and if police were so suspicious of his client two nights later, the defense said, why didn't they videotape their interview with him? that way jurors could have judged stephen scharf's supposedly odd demeanor for themselves. why didn't you? >> he wasn't in custody. i don't know.
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>> reporter: the defense attorney also argued that police misinterpreted what his client said in his home just hours later. >> my client never said this wasn't an accident. >> reporter: as for that hammer police thought was a weapon -- >> the hammer was examined by the forensic experts. there was nothing found on that hammer. >> reporter: and the defense attorney pressed the medical examiner on her flip-flop. undetermined manner of death in '93, now it was a homicide. really? are y >> are you trying to say you're learning from your mistakes on this case? >> you may call them mistakes, sir. i did the best i could in 1992, documents what i had observed with mrs. scharf. >> reporter: the medical examiner was helpful to the defense in one critical way, though. she determined that jody had been drunk the night she fell off the cliffs. jody had a blood alcohol level of 0.12.
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that was over the legal limit. >> would be equivalent to approximately four average size drinks, wine or beer, something like that. >> reporter: a drunken slip and fall argued the defense, to back that up, the lawyer had his own heavy hitter, famed forensic pathologist dr. cyril wecht. wecht posted a resume of star-studded investigations too as high-profile as the prosecution's dr. baden. only wecht had a totally different take on how jody scharf died. >> i would call this an accidental death. >> reporter: in wecht's version, which he demonstrated with of all things a teddy bear, jody fell off the cliff and onto jagged rocks just below causing her mortal wounds. her body then catapulted. >> and out goes the body and it hurtles into the air. >> reporter: into the tree canopy which then carries her through the abyss and into that
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distant tree. >> this is what i think happened to explain those injuries of the chest and of the head. >> reporter: but there was another bubble to burst in the prosecution's case. the motive for murder. stephen scharf wasn't a greedy killer, his attorney said. his client never made a claim on that insurance policy. it was only after the money was turned over to the state years later, he said, that stephen scharf even bothered to collect. >> would it throw fuel on the fire not to do it, well, i know i look guilty because i am guilty, i better not make this claim. >> you're damned if you do. you're damned if you don't. >> the other motive divorce was flimsy as well. they had been talking breakup for years. those divorce papers just the latest legal salvo in an ongoing marital spat. the prosecutor paints a picture
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of someone who, frankly, is furious about this divorce. >> no one person ever indicated that my client was furious over this divorce. they had talked about divorce for years. maybe she was, you know, saying one thing and not following through. >> reporter: though it is true stephen scharf did not want a divorce, he says he wanted to give the marriage another chance. and as for that former girlfriend, terry schofield, she recounted stephen's mysterious statement just before jody's death. >> just give me to the end of september and everything will be okay. the stress will be -- a lot of the stress will be gone. >> reporter: the defense attorney says that was stephen's clumsy way of trying to dump his girlfriends and speaking of which he added, those other women did not bother jody at all. she was seeing other people herself. >> the person on the bottom half
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in both of those is who? >> jody scharf. >> reporter: the record keeper of the dating service testified that jody's name was on an application. she even checked off the interests she'd like to share with a mate. the attorney offered that as proof of stephen and jody's open marriage but what really rankled the defense, what had torn at the heart of stephen scharf was the testimony of his son jonathan. >> i remember her showing me her bruises. >> reporter: he had painted his father as a brute and possibly a killer. >> i never hit jody. it made me sick to my stomach. >> reporter: the young man wasn't to be believed, said the lawyer, for one thing, when police interviewed jonathan back in 2008, the young man described his dad as a good guy. >> i think he was, you know, a fairly decent parent. >> reporter: it was only after
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detectives told him his dad had just been arrested that the son turned on his father. >> she got coffee thrown at her by him. >> before you found out that your dad was arrested, did you lie? >> yes. >> and did you lie more than once? >> yes. >> reporter: why would jonathan turn on his father and lie? the defense lawyer said it was jonathan, not his dad, who was motivated by greed. if stephen scharf was convicted, his son would get all that insurance money. >> who does the money go to? >> it goes to me. >> reporter: in the end, the lawyer called stephen scharf's son a spoiled brat. >> that sounds like some spoiled kid. >> reporter: who was not a credible witness. in closing, he insisted that this wasn't a murder case, just a sad story about a woman who
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tumbled drunkenly to her death. >> this case is an accident, nothing more, nothing less. >> reporter: soon it would be in the hands of a jury. coming up -- >> it was a lightbulb. you wouldn't help but think, that's interesting. >> the jurors speak. what would they decide? >> stephen, did you kill your wife, jody? >> the verdict when "over the edge" continues. lident is the fact that it's very, very tough on bacteria, yet it's very gentle on the denture itself. polident consists of 4 powerful ingredients that work together to deep clean your denture in hard to reach places. that work together a lot of paints say ordinthey can do the job,ver. but just one can "behr" through it all.
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the jury is about to decide the fate of stephen scharf. here's chris jansing with the conclusion of our story. 18 years after a night that ended in his wife's death off a cliff, stephen scharf stood accused of murder by the state of new jersey. and through it all, one thing he wants you to know is this, he would never have laid a hand on his beloved jody. never. stephen, did you kill your wife, jody? >> i did not hurt jody. i did not. >> did you throw her off -- >> i did not. i did not. i didn't hurt jody. i didn't push her. i didn't cause her to get hurt. i didn't kill my wife. >> reporter: we talked to
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stephen scharf at the bergen county jail where he was held for more than two years after his arrest in 2008. he and his wife tina say they've paid a high price for something he didn't do. >> our daughter is 2 1/2 hen still never held by her father. because we don't have contact visits. >> it's not just a tragedy for jody. it's a tragedy for john. it's a tragedy for my wife, it's a tragedy for my daughter and for myself. >> reporter: still, he decided not to take the stand in his own defense. but told "dateline" that what he first said years ago about his wife's death was the truth. >> i wish it didn't happen. i wish we had gone to the comedy club. but i didn't -- i'm innocent. >> reporter: but had the jury gotten that same message? when they walked into that deliberating room for the first time, some jurors in fact planned to vote not guilty.
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>> there wasn't enough evidence for me. that's what it was. >> reporter: others were thinking guilty. >> it was several things. it was no one thing that had made up my mind. >> reporter: the jurors went back and forth over the evidence. and here's what they came to believe. that jody was likely drunk and that her husband knew it and if that was the case, why would he let her get so close to the edge of a cliff. >> as the husband knowing that your wife was drinking would you bring her there? >> reporter: the jurors deliberated three days before deciding whether stephen scharf should be found guilty or not guilty of a single count of murder. >> on the charge of murder of jody ann scharf your verdict is -- >> guilty. >> reporter: guilty. later jurors said what united them was the testimony of jody's friend telling them that jody was terrified of her husband.
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>> that possibly she was telling everyone if something happens to me it's my husband. >> reporter: and it was another woman in stephen's life who also swayed the jury. terry schofield recounting what stephen said to her weeks before jody's death, that his stress would soon be over. >> that was something that pushed me towards what we decide ted the the end. >> it was her husband who slipped with that statement. they believe it wasn't just a fall from the cliff, it was a cold-blooded execution. stephen scharf was sentenced to life in prison. he says the jurors condemned him not on the facts but for his and jody's tumultuous open marriage. >> so you think this was a moral judgment. >> yes. >> on the part of jurors. >> and i suppose some people would say, well, he was punished for his morals weakness.
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but this was a murder trial. >> reporter: but for rescuer michael cioffi it's a fitting end to a story that's haunted him since that night on the palisades. >> this has never left me. it's been years. i went back there myself without people knowing it several times because it bothered my. something was wrong. >> reporter: for close friends like marian, the verdict does not remove the sting of the loss. >> i'm ang go i that he took the life of a beautiful person. that's what bothers me the most. that he would do that and think that he was going to get away with it. he wanted the insurance money. he wanted the his son, the house, war he wanted and she'd be out of the way. i think that was sad.
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that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. my dad on the phone told us jenny was gone. >> a house in flames. the body of a woman inside. >> we have a body. i need a medic. >> but it wasn't the fire that killed her. she was dead before it started. >> accidents will happen. this was no accident. >> who wanted her dead? her boyfriend said he knew. >> there's people after us. >> what does that mean? >> they're trying to get us. >> but police knew better. >> strangulation is a very personal killing. that's a very angry killing.


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